Hard drive makers are trying hard to compete with media players in the home theater space. Western Digital has its WD TV and new WD TV Mini devices, while LaCie has its LaCinema line. Competitor Seagate isn't twiddling its thumbs. Earlier this year, it released the FreeAgent Theater, which includes a 500GB external hard drive, but lacks an HDMI port.
The FreeAgent Theater was designed to appeal to those who weren't bleeding-edge home theater fanatics, but Seagate is bumping up the specs with its new FreeAgent Theater+ HD media player. This time around, the HDMI port is onboard, as well as full 1080p HD and DTS™ 2.0 + surround-sound support. It also has three USB ports, but it still saddled with only an Ethernet port. Seagate says a new Wi-Fi adapter will be available for the player next month. While the original device only could display JPEG images, the new one offers BMP, GIF, PNG and TIFF file viewing.
The appeal of something like the FreeAgent Theater+ is the hard drive option, since networked Blu-ray players can already play files from your home PCs plus obviously play Blu-ray discs. You can dump your media files onto the included drive and then skip streaming issues entirely by playing files straight from the docked drive. But Seagate's player doesn't include the online services that connected Blu-ray drives offer, like support for Netflix on demand video streaming,
With the included 500GB drive, the FreeAgent Theater+ is now available for just $10 more than the original FreeAgent Theater at $289; there's also an option to just purchase the dock for $149. Is it a more enticing option than its predecessor, and, more importantly, competing devices in this space? Let us know in our TalkBack section.